Saturday Apr 04, 2009

One More from Majid Madjidi

Majid Majidi, the director who has made a series of internationally released masterpieces (Baran, The Color of Paradise and Children of Heaven) has now released one more: The Song of Sparrows.

My daughter and I got to watch this movie in a Tehran cinema in January (2009), and I'm delighted to see that the movie has made it to the U.S. so quickly after its screening in Iran.

Its US screening started in Manhattan yesterday (April 3, 2009, coincidentally with Persian New Year's sizdah-bedar tradition).

You can read the reviews in The New York Times and in The Wall Street Journal. The latter review includes an interview with Majidi and some deeper analysis of his works. 

There's something strangely attractive about Majidi's work—his handling of simple and universal human emotions, the likes of which one rarely sees in movies made by major houses. If you watch The Song of Sparrows and have some liking for it, you should also explore his other works, each of which study a different dimension of the human emotional core in a completely different setting.

Here, I'm searching for a proper description but I cannot find it. A story can hardly be summarized. It can, in fact, only be told, and each of Majidi's stories are wildly different which help make his works completely fresh and always unexpected. It is also amazing that in many of them Reza Naji has a leading role, and he remains equally perfect for all of these roles. Is it his acting skill? Is it the core, simple character that he has built which keeps seeping through the various stories? In one of Majidi's movies, Baran, Naji plays a minor role but as Majidi's viewer you will keep wondering whether you're dealing with the same man in all these movies where Naji appears. In a sense, Naji has tied the movies together through his acting and simple character play.   

In closing, note that Hossein Alizadeh, one of the living masters of classical Persian music, has composed the music for Sparrows. (I purchased the CD in Tehran's Home for the Arts in January but I've not had a chance to listen to it in full yet to see whether it includes any tracks beyond what we hear in the movie. I would not be surprised if it does.)

Sunday Mar 29, 2009

Mobile Phone Orchestra

My cousin, Kia Hadipour, a graduate student in music at Bloomington, Indiana, points to this video of "Standford's Mobile Phone Orchestra"—a cool fusion of art and technology.

Friday Jan 30, 2009

Modern Rendition of a Classical Theme

I blogged about it here.

Sunday Dec 14, 2008

Isfahan

You may never have the good fortune of visiting Isfahan but to get a glimpse of the city, I highly recommend a visit to http://www.360cities.net/area/isfahan-iran.

Select one of the images there and take a 360 degree view of one of the corners of this amazing Persian city.

It would be difficult for me to recommend any of these images as exemplary but if you do visit the Sheikh Lotfallah Masjid, ensure that you turn the viewing angle towards its magnificent ceiling.

Hopefully, I will be lucky enough to visit Isfahan during early January of 2009, during two weeks I'm taking off from work.


Thursday Oct 02, 2008

Classical Persian Music

Naim has collected a series of photos on Classical Persian Music.

To the left is a photo of Saba Kamkar, a member of the Kamkar Ensemble, playing dayerh.

(In Persian, dayereh means "circle")

To the right is a photo of Bahareh Fayazi, playing tar.

(In Persian, tar means "thin thread".)

Thursday Sep 25, 2008

The Engineering of Elections

Returning home always makes you wonder what is going on.

No place on earth has the art of engineering elections been better perfected than in America, the "mother" of all modern Western "democracies" with the possible exception of the version of it practiced in the British Isles. Queries and probes can now be blocked at a whim, and all possibilities of candidate comparisons relegated to remote, meaningless but comfortable corners. The "system" systematically survives even as it atrophies and wilts to its very roots.

Wednesday Aug 27, 2008

Steps

The Butchart Gardens

We expect all steps to lead somewhere.

These steps, near a parking lot at Butchart Gardens, lead to two flower pots.

The gardener meets our expectations.

Sunday Jul 27, 2008

Randy Pausch (Oct. 23, 1960 - July 25, 2008)

Randy PauchThe Last Lecture, "Achieving Your Childhood Dreams":

Sunday Jun 01, 2008

Modern Persian Ceramic and Carpets

A friend sent me a link to an interesting video report on a ceramic exhibition by Iranian women artists posted on Jadid ("new") Online. (Interviewees in the report speak in Persian but you can read the English subtitles which provide pretty good translation.)

Jadid Online's report on carpets by the late Iranian artist, Abolfath Rassam-Arabzadeh, contains an amazing display of his works described by his daughter, Zhila, with a sneak view into the museum and workshop built in his honor in Tehran.

Apparently, a Japanese museum had once offered $11 million for one of Arabzadeh's works containing several scenes from Persian poet Ferdowsi's Shahnameh

Wednesday Jan 30, 2008

When Art Becomes Work

Art becomes work for these men. 

Except for the thumping of the print blocks, their work can be as quiet as prayer.

They make products that others sell.

They themselves use suppliers, for paint and for print blocks.

Those who carve the print blocks, have suppliers for carving knives and pear tree wood blocks of the right kind. 

Thursday Sep 20, 2007

Zero Degree Turn -- Persian TV mini-Series

 

Farnaz Fassihi of The Wall Street Journal ("Iranian Unlikely TV Hit"), Washington Post, Nasser Karimi of Associated Press ("Iran's Newest Hero Aids WWII Era Jews"), a certain teenage family member ("Persian Stuff: Zero Degree Turn") and now NPR ("Romance on Iranian TV Crosses Cultures") have all published stories and bits and pieces about "Zero Degree Turn," an Iranian TV mini-series shot in Paris and Budapest.

The mini-series involves a love story between an Iranian-Palestinian Muslim man and a French Jewish woman during World War II. It is based on the true story of an Iranian student-diplomat in Paris who saved some 1,000 French Jews by issuing Iranian passports to them as a means of passage to the safety of neutral Iran.

YouTube seems to have some pieces of some of the episodes. I hear that the theme song of the mini-series has become quite a hit in Iran, and every Monday night people gather to watch it. Here, in the U.S. it broadcasts every Friday night on JJTVN through free satellite connection.

(I also ran into a CNN character and political analysis of the mini-series on YouTube. Unfortunately, it was grossly, almost purposefully, inaccurate. While commenting on the mini-series, the reporters don't even bother with getting any of the characters correctly and blatantly confuse very minor characters for the major ones. However, I am hardly surprised. Much of the mainstream media's bar on accuracy in reporting on Iran remains fixed shamefully low.) 

Monday Jul 30, 2007

Hands Cutting Things

A couple of hands cutting things:

Sunday Jul 22, 2007

Once

Don't let the trailers fool you.  Once, a movie from Ireland, casts a cinematic glimpse at the passion and art of music making. It refreshes the concept of the musical cinema while weaving multiple stories about separation—the enigma and engine of all art and drama (to restate a maxim first stated by the British art critique John Berger.)

Once mixes music and movement ("movie" = a little thing capturing movement) to appeal to the intelligence of its viewers. It "is," and "is not," simply a wonderful musical. It "is" because it is a movie with music and about music. It "is not" because it defies the Hollywood tradition of the musical containing large amounts of dance although it fills the space with simple movements of everyday life. 

If you like music, play an instrument, have been separated from instruments or people you love, or have made music with others, you shouldn't miss it. For more comments about the movie, see here. Other sources include: an NPR interview. It is also worth reading the official Once press kit to see how this John Carney movie came together.

Once: Winner of 2007 Sundance Film Festival, World Cinema Audience Award, Dramatic. Excellent piece of work. "R" rating for some use of four-letter words but no sex and no violence. A great story, very creative composition and magnificent music presented in a simple space.

See the Washington Post  ("For 'Once,' A Musical Strikes the Right Cord" and "Breaking into Song, Bursting with Ideas") and the Associated Press ("'Once' deconstructs and reinvents the movie musical intimately, brilliantly") reviews. I have given some more review links elsewhere.

Thursday Jul 12, 2007

Young Readers, the Apprentice and the Potter

In the last stretch of our drive back to Silicon Valley this past week, we had a chance to listen to the audio version of The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman, and the story ended, very conveniently, as we drove back onto our garage way.

Cushman's book reads not only like a wonderful novella but also as a meticulous work of historical analysis. It certainly has a very good potential for becoming a great movie---I would imagine, much better than any Harry Potter.

Perhaps, someone has already made such a movie, and not being much of a movie-goer, I just don't know about it.

I think the main premise of Cushman's book is that only through pain, suffering and persistence can one disclose new worlds and give birth to what is worthy of being.

Fear, in particularly fear of failure in its various forms, remains the greatest sin.

Harry Potter deals with fear as a hero among idols would but the midwife's apprentice awakens to the sinfulness of fear in its very opposition to the greatest gift given to everyone---life itself.

 

Tuesday Jun 26, 2007

If one day you journey away ...

A French Canadian has produced an interesting rendition of Faramarz Aslani's "If One Day You Journey Away ..." (Agheh Ye Rooz Beri Safar) song in the original Persian. Her next goal should probably be works by Dr. Mohammad Esfahani, say the ones in his recent album Barakat.

The only problem is we cannot hear her play her guitar here. For that, we may consult the young duo of brothers playing the song:

 

Wednesday Jun 20, 2007

Multiple Dimensions

Tonight, I finally finished watching Kevin Kline's Hamlet, and as I was going back and forth across various scenes, I was immersed in the fullness of the subtlties in this production, not in its theatricality but in the superb delivery of its performance.

While, in recent years, multiple renditions of Hamlet have kept arriving on DVD --and I have seen several of them over the years-- the best so far, must be Kline's. It was apprantely recorded in a New York Shakespeare festival and released in 1990 under the Broadway Theatre Archive series. By comparison, Kenneth Branagh's 1996 Hamlet, a movie and not such a bad Hamlet, proves to be a rather weak cinematic imitation of Kline's theatric production. (Let's not even touch on Mel Gibson's Hamlet, which is even more poorly done in comparison to Kline's.)

It is the logic of Hamlet --or rather what we know of it-- that any good theatric production must preserve and propagate to the audience. The visual fanfare of cinematic productions (Gibson's and to a lesser extent Branagh's) obscure that logic. It is as if the visual display pleases the eye but deafens the ears (the heart?) to the story. In describing the logic of Hamlet, Lajos Egri says it right:

Literature has many tridimensional characters--Hamlet, for instance. We not only know his age, his appearance, his state of health; we can easily surmise his idiosyncrasies. His background, his sociology, give impetus to the play. We know the political situation at the time, the relationship between his parents, the events that have gone before and the effect they have had upon him. We know his personal premise, and its motivation. We know his psychology, and we can see clearly how it results from his physical and sociological make-up. In short, we know Hamlet as we can never hope to know ourselves.

In a good play, every scene works to advance the story and its premise. Not an extra word. Not an extra move. 

Thursday May 31, 2007

Tehran Metro Art


Route: Line2
Station: Azadi
Art Name: Winter
Artist Name: Ali Mehdi Heidari
Dimensions: 4.95\*2.40 (meter)
Art Kind: Tiles

To view Tehran Metro art pieces, turn here.

Tuesday May 08, 2007

May It Live Multiple More Millennia

Having downed my wine glass filled with orange juice at one of the JavaOne parties, I left San Francisco for San Jose on 280 at around 11 pm Tuesday night.

As I was reflecting on the day and all the stimulating conversations I had had with my colleagues at Sun and with people from companies as widely different as IBM, Zimbra, Amobee, Funambol, Oracle-Tangosol, Hyperic, RedHat, JBoss, Ericsson, Motorola and others, and with people who are using PostgreSQL and Java DB I was also flipping through the albums on the iPod connected to the car stereo and landed on the first track of Kayhan Kalhor's Nokhosteen Deedar-e Bamdadi ("The Original Dawn Visit"). This is the same Kalhor of the Silk Road Project, and the track I believe to be his best work by far. The genius Kalhor has gathered and focused in this album should be sufficient to let Kamanchech (a multi-millennial Persian string instrument) speak to future generations for multiple more millennia (far longer than any computers or computer languages can survive).

I should point out that the faint-hearted may have some difficulty grasping the work. However, our daring to stay the course of drawning ourselves in Kalhor's musical expressions will prove rewarding as we open the locks we habitually put on our minds.

In summary, Nokhosteen Deedar-e Bamdadi demonstrates Kalhor's genius most convincingly and proves that the living tongue of the Kamancheh can proudly speak volumes to modern audiences for the foreseeable future.

(I believe I obtained the album in a summer trip to Iran in 2005 and unfortunately I do not find it on the Amazon CDs from Kayhan Kalhor to make a good recommendation.)

Saturday May 05, 2007

Neghar-ghari Art Exhibition


 

A scene from Neghar-ghari Art Exhibition, Tehran.

For more photos from the exhibition, see here and here

Sunday Apr 22, 2007

Architecture without Architects

Ahmad Kavousian took this (top, left) photograph of the village of Masule in 1975, and the photo on the right, probably taken in the city of Isfahan just in the last year or so, is from Alieh, who has posted some other, amazing photos from wonderful Isfahan, the capital of the Safavids. (Thanks go to Pooya for sharing his Flickr contact list.)

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